I recently bought a new computer, and my intent is to retire to other ones I have been using. They'll live on a bit; but with specific purposes. One of them will turn into a full time jukebox for my office. The other will move to my music room where I will use it for mixing down songs, or digitizing cassettes.

Where should I put stuff?

In an attempt to retire both of these PCs from DotComIt duty; I need to move all the relevant DotComIt stuff onto the new computer. This has brought to attention the organizational issue I've been avoiding for years.

I have my business files organized like this:

career
--clients
----Active
----Inactive
--Vendors
----Active
----Inactive

So, at the top level view, I categorize all my interactions between clients and vendors. Each client--or vendor-will have their own folder, with three more subdirectories:

  • Development: This is the development area. It primarily contains the source code and eclipse workspaces. Vendors don't usually have this.
  • Documents: This is the "Catch All" directory. It'll contain graphical assets, test cases for development, marketing details, product brainstorms, and anything that isn't development or finance related.
  • Finance: This will primarily contain contracts, invoices, time sheets, RFPs, and similar items.

Sometimes I'll split up development and documents by project. Finance is not usually "big" enough to warrant such separation.

Why is this a problem?

I treat every DotComIt venture; such as Flextras, AskTheFlexpert, and The Flex Show as if I were my own client; so they each have their own directories.

My problem comes with two items. The first is projects that may deal with multiple vendors and/or clients. The second is related assets that spread out across multiple directories. The DotComIt\Documents folder, for instance, has a directory for Graphics, and one for Articles, and one for Presentations. But, graphics are often created by a vendor; and articles and presentations are often created for conferences and publications (who are formally clients).

In both cases, I don't have a single place to go for the all information related to a specific project and it just gets confused. It's worst when I'm inconsistent about such stuff.

Let's talk a bit about 360|Flex and 360|Conferences. I think it will do a good job of explaining why there are organizational issues on my end.

These are some tenants of DotComIt's 360|Flex relationship:

  • I routinely speak at 360|Flex events.
  • Flextras routinely sponsors 360|Flex events
  • 360|Flex routinely sponsors The Flex Show to promote their events

360|Conferences is both a vendor and a client, at the same time. There are often separate contracts for all three of these things; but sometimes they get combined. Where do I store the information related to our relationship? Do they get a directory in with vendors? Or with clients? Or both?

When I create a presentation, or article, I have been storing them in the DotComIt\Documents directory. Often I'll give a presentation multiple times, so the actual "documents" I'm creating as part of the speaker contract are not stored with the client.

With articles; I often insist on getting a contract that states I retain copyright and/or have the ability to repost to my personal blog. Sometimes I have a contract with these publishers and the actual article I create is stored independently.

Even writing this, I'm confusing myself. I rewrote the last paragraph multiple times.

Unfortunately, the situation where I have different relationships with the same entity has come up multiple times in my business.

The end result is that for situations like 360|Flex; I have a lot of documents scattered all over the place and no single source for them.

That's not so bad, though, is it?

It gets worse. When Flextras sponsors a conference, I have been storing all our related advertising stuff in the Flextras\Documents folder. I often reuse similar promotional materials for different conferences, so this makes sense to get it in a single spot. Unfortunately in some cases, I've been throwing the legal docs related to that conference in the same directory related to my advertising.

I've done similar things in other situations. For example, I recently hired someone to do some updates to the Flextras web site. Those project files are split between a directory in the Flextras folder and the vendor's Vendor directory.

When I hire a vendor to create graphic assets for a Flextras conference booth promotion; should those assets be put in a folder specific for that conference? Or should they end up in the Flextras graphics repository? I've done both.

I need to plow through all this and decide where it goes; and then keep it consistent. I just haven't the foggiest idea what it should be. I wrote this post in hopes of helping my mind figure it out. It is helping.

I think the Getting Things Done approach is that everything should be filed in alphabetical order. Maybe my extra layer of categorization is confusing things. It made sense to me when I started doing it; but perhaps I need to get rid of the client and vendor distinction. It worked in my "real world" filing cabinet. But, it doesn't solve the underlying problem when things have different, appropriate categorization.

Does anyone else think about these issues? Do you have any ideas? Please share!

Here is my solution in progress

What I'm leaning towards is this approach:

  • The Vendor Specific Directory should store all the finance / legal records related to that Vendor.
  • Graphic related master files, even those created by a vendor, should all go in a single graphic repository for that 'project'. So, Flextras stuff will go in "Flextras\Document\Graphics" and TheFlexShow stuff would go in "TheFlexShow\Documents\Graphics." [etc..] I do this because I've found it to be a huge time saver to put all the graphics in a single spot.
  • Any other project specific stuff; should be in some project folder. For Flextras marketing stuff; this would probably be something like this: "Flextras\Documents\Advertising\PromotionName"
  • Presentations and Articles should be stored in a single repository (Inside "DotComIt\Documents"). Usually these things are not vendor specific, and I think having a central place to go look for all my presentations/articles this will make sense [just like it does for the graphic stuff]. Even though I create a presentation for a conf; I'm going to try to give it a half dozen other times.

I'm not sure I want to combine the Vendor and Client directories just yet. I'm toying around with that idea, though, because my directory structure is too deep and it takes a lot of clicks to go down.

Did I miss anything?